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Blue Smoke Memoir

Blue Smoke Memoir

By: Debra Shah
Publisher: McQuinn Publishing
Publication Date: March 2010
ISBN: 978-0-615274218
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 25, 2010

Like so many recent college graduates, Alexandria Dupri doesn't have a job. Returning home, her father insists that she must pay the gas bill. It's due in two weeks. Desperate, Alex takes a job at the local liquor mart. It's not a very good job but at least it pays the gas bill. Fortunately, Alex is soon offered a position at Miles Porter Cigarettes. She wasn't sure what her job would require, but she didn't care, it paid really well.

Alex is pleased to learn that her new job, although it certainly doesn't use any skills she learned in college, isn't terrible. She is the new Product Quality Examiner; she inspects the tobacco by taking small samples to the company lab and weighing it. It's a dirty job, and makes her smell of tobacco, but as Alex exclaims, "It only took one paycheck to convince myself that this is where I wanted to be." (pg 6).

Life is going well for Alex until she is decides to apply for a better paying job within the company. She believes she has a good chance at the new position but one of the other employees is trying to sabotage her chances. Why? Is she a victim of discrimination or simply a nasty, cruel co-worker? As events tumble out of Alex's control, she is dealt one last obstacle when she is injured on the job. Will Miles Porter support her or try to sweep the accident under the rug? What will Alex do?

I suspect that the author must have spent some time in a cigarette factory as her debut novel is so realistic you can smell the tobacco grime that Alex takes home with her each day. The co-workers, so many who seem disgusted with their circumstances and yet resigned to their dead-end careers and lives, read true. Yet the dialogue is where the author's writing truly shines. Shah uses language and topics that engage the reader and make the characters come to life.

Quill says: A compelling story about one woman's struggle against the system that is trying to put her down.

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